Friday, October 27, 2017

RonnieAdventure #0279 - Las Vegas to Goldfield (Nevada)

Since our travel trailer was still up in northern Idaho just a few miles south of the Canadian border, we decided that we had better go and get it before it started to snow. The only problem was that there were forest fires everywhere in northwestern United States and the smoke was reported to be really bad between Las Vegas and the trailer.

After visiting with various Chamber of Commerce Offices in Oregon and Washington, we were informed that we should stay in the middle of the states in order to encounter the least amount of smoke. So, we decided to just take Highway 95 north to California and then take Highway 395 into Oregon and Washington, with a few RonnieAdventures along the way.

First stop was Amargosa Valley (formerly Lathrop Wells) about 90 miles north of Las Vegas. This is basically the junction of US Highway 95 and Nevada State Route 373, with a few residences and businesses located on both sides of the highway.

The Area 51 Alien Center is a store that specializes in alien goods and souvenirs and has a restaurant at the back of the store. Behind the store is the Alien Cathouse (Brothel - legal in Nye County, Nevada). Just north of the Alien Center is a Fireworks outlet and in front of their building is the World's Largest Firecracker - an M-800. Across the highway to the west is Fort Amargosa that contains a casino, gas station, and food.

The old Jackass Airport (private airport on BLM leased land) north of town closed several years ago when the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository (just a few miles to the east) was put on indefinite hold status, but it appears that Yucca Mountain may be reactivated sometime within the next few years. However, BLM has new land lease pricing for airports, so it is doubtful the Jackass Airport will ever reopen.

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The Amargosa Sand Dunes are located a few miles north of the junction and are a popular place on weekends.

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 Gold was discovered at Goldfield in 1902, and by 1904 Goldfield was the largest town in the State of Nevada with 20,000 people (about 30% of the State's total population). That same year, Wyatt and Virgil Earp arrived in Goldfield and Virgil was hired as deputy Sheriff. However, in April 1905, Virgil contacted pneumonia and died six months later on October 18, 1905. His remains were shipped to Portland (Oregon) where he was buried in the River View Cemetery. Shortly thereafter, Wyatt left for California.

At its peak population, Goldfield had five banks, three newspapers, several mining stock exchanges, five railroads, and a thriving business district. Goldfield was famous across the nation. 

On Labor Day, 1906, Goldfield hosted the famous lightweight boxing championship match between Joe Gans and Oscar "Battling" Nelson with a $30,000 purse. The fight was to go until one person was knocked out or gave up; however, in the 42nd round, the fight was stopped and Nelson was disqualified for a "vicious foul." Gans was awarded the fight, jeweled belt, and the money. The fight is still in the Guiness Book of Records as the longest fight ever recorded.

Unfortunately, by 1910, the gold boom ended and Goldfield started a steady decline as people moved to more productive areas. The population of Goldfield is now listed as 268 people.

The county courthouse was build in 1907 at a cost of $140,000 and is still in use today. The three-story Goldfield High School (built in 1906-08) is in poor condition, but the Goldfield Historical Society has received a matching grant of $296,000 from the National Park Service under the "Save America's Treasures Grant Program" and the building is being rehabilitated.

The four-story Goldfield Hotel was built between 1907-1908 at a cost of $500,000 and when completed it was reported to be the most spectacular hotel in Nevada. The hotel is currently being renovated.

There are also a few new or rehabilitated structures along US Highway 95 in the southern part of the town that have a variety of antiques in front of the buildings.

However, for those that like older commercial establishments, the General Store is currently open and is for sale. The Shell Gas Station is closed and the other gas station in town is now an antique store. The old fire station is closed, but there is a new fire station located directly across the highway from the courthouse. 

There is an old "bottle house" near the fire station and there are a number of abandoned houses behind the courthouse and in the northern part of town. 

The "Art Car" display has been moved since I was last in Goldfield and is now located near the general store.

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 The Santa Fe Club is located on the east side of town and has been in continuous operation since it was built in July 1905. Across the street are some old houses and the Bullfrog-Goldfield Railroad Maintenance and Repair Yard.

Instead of being in the center of current Goldfield, Main Street is located on the north side of town and contains some interesting stores. It was reported that even aliens shop at the Main Street Store.

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Although Goldfield is full of historic structures, many people come to Goldfield to visit The International Car Forest of the Last Church, which is located just outside of town nears some old abandoned mines.

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We spent a lot more time in Goldfield than I had planned; fortunately, Tonopah (known as "Queen of the Silver Camps") was only about 30 miles up the road!